Summer Concert Series

The Summer Concert Series of free concerts happens Friday nights in the Market Square in downtown Meaford

Meaford Summer Concert Series Back For Third Year

By Bill Monahan

The third annual Meaford Summer Concert Series kicks off on July 13th at the Market Square with the first of four free live concerts lined up for Friday nights in July and August. Once again the series will feature young local performers opening for more seasoned acts.

“The idea behind the whole series when we first started it was to bring people to the downtown core,” says Chris Scerri, who originated the series and has organized it again this year. The concerts are designed to bring “tourists, residents, even cottagers enjoy a free show and bring some business into downtown Meaford.”

Chris has put together a program that brings together some of the great musicians he has seen and worked with in the area.

“I try to have different styles of music through the summer,” he says.

As the series of You Tube videos below indicates, what these acts have in common is an ability to capture the soul of a song in their performance.

The series kicks off on July 13th with The Collective, a band of seasoned veterans led by legendary vocalist Donnie Meeker, With many stages and stadiums in their collective past, these players have recently built a local following performing regularly at The Harbour Street Fish Bar in Collingwood.

“They are a collection of amazing artists that have played with the who’s who of rock and roll and everything else in North America over the last few decades. They play a bunch of Motown stuff, a little bit of rock and roll and a little bit of blues but it’s kind of like the hits of a few decades ago. And they’re amazing players. They have a lot of energy.”

 

Energy is an important component when choosing the acts.

“I try to bring in bands that have energy so that people are up and dancing, jumping around rather than just listening. I think that an outdoor festival should have a lot of those kinds of things.”

For the July 27th show, Chris has brought Chuck Jackson and the All Stars for a night of blues.

“Chuck Jackson is the front man for the Downchild Blues Band but he’s also had a band called Chuck Jackson and the All Stars going for many, many years,” Chris says, adding “In Port Credit they have a matinee they play every Sunday at the Rock ‘n Docks which is full every week. Usually it’s Pat Carey from Downchild that plays sax with him and Tyler Yarema will sit in on keyboards. When they’re playing here this summer it will be Tyler on keys, Pat on sax and they’ll have a drummer and bass player with them as well.”

The opener on that night will be Sophie Wensley, a young local R & B singer.

The concert on August 3rd features the Allison Young Quintet.

“Alison Young is a swing jazz sax player that was part of our show at the Marsh Street last year for their 90th Anniversary,” says Chris, “and she’s also a great singer and so she has a band that she’s going to bring up and they’re going to be more of a swing band and that’s going to be a lot of fun.”

Opening for her will be singer-songwriter Miranda Journey from Wasaga Beach who has impressed local audiences as part of Auburn Falling, a duo in which she performed with James Stephens.

Sean Cotton has played as a solo performer a few times at The Leeky Canoe, but his show on August 24th includes The Muskoka Connection.

“He’s phenomenal on his own,” says Chris, “but he’s a rock and roll and country kind of a guy and with a full band he’s a great electric guitar player and singer. He lives in Muskoka right now and he’s made up a great network of great musicians from there. So he’s going to bring a group of them down to play with him.

“And he has ties to Meaford too,” Chris adds, “He has family in Meaford as well so he’s indirectly local.”

Opening for Sean Cotton, Emma Wright will be playing with a full band, which includes some of the area’s best musicians: John Hume on keyboards, Rob Elder on guitar, Jaret Koop on bass, and Mike Weir on drums.

As usual the concerts are free and you are being asked to bring a contribution for the food bank, along with a camp chair. “There are some picnic tables there on site but it’s suggested that you bring a camp chair,” says Chris, “They are more comfortable and it guarantees you a seat wherever you want to put it.”

The shows start at 7 pm, giving you the chance to catch dinner at one of the restaurants across the street or you can “call in for an order and go and pick it up between sets”.

Chris is asking local artisans to be on hand so that “people will be able to come in to the area there and look around and talk to these artisans and then the music will start around seven o’clock with the young musicians opening. They’ll do maybe a half hour, forty minute set and then the headline band will start just before eight o’clock and play until ten.”

Again this year, it is the support of local sponsors that makes the Summer Concert Series possible.

“The BIA is again our key sponsor along with the Meaford Culture Foundation and the Municipality of Meaford. The Rotary has come on board as a sponsor this year and Long and McQuade always helps us with PA. Bill at Valumart and Dave at New Orleans feed our musicians and our sound guys and Peak FM and Bayshore Broadcasting work with us too to get the word out. I’m working with RTO7 as well to do some social media advertising with us this year.”

Through this community effort, we can look forward to four more summer Friday nights of great live music to ring through the streets of downtown Meaford.

 

Tom Barlow Stars in Final Meaford Summer Concert

On Friday, Aug. 25th Tom Barlow will be headlining the final concert in this year’s Meaford Summer Concert Series.  This year’s series has been even more successful than last year’s and it is particularly fitting that Tom Barlow would headline the final show of the season.

Tom Barlow is a Canadian recording artist who has garnered four Juno Award nominations and has released three audio albums. His debut “Barlow” garnered three top ten radio hits and was nominated for two Juno Awards. His politically charged second album was also nominated for a Juno. Barlow has performed in virtually every corner of planet and writes and performs lyrically driven emotionally compelling rock and roll.

Last Monday Tom celebrated eleven years as host of the Monday night jam at The Shore Grille and Grotto in Port Credit.  For over a decade this open mic has been important to developing musicians.  At Tom Barlow’s jam night people can get up and play with the industry’s top musicians as their backing band, a band with a tight groove that can make them feel comfortable and allow them to showcase their talents.

“I love it!” he says, “That kind of mentorship and half butt-kicking that moves people from being terrible to okay, to good, to fantastic, to pro, and they go on to make gold records.  All this stuff kind of feeds itself. You have to get out and play.  It’s okay to be terrible at a jam night, that’s how you learn.  You go and you meet other musicians and you develop.”

When he started the weekly jam a decade ago he had no idea that it would become so important to so many emerging talents.  And he had no way of knowing that his Port Credit jam would become an important part of creating a live music scene three hours away in Meaford on a whole different Great Lake.

Friday’s Summer Concert Best Yet

Meaford’s local impresario, Chris Scerri has a real talent for putting together a musical variety show.  Often concerts that feature many acts are of a random nature, but he takes care to carefully structure shows which consistently add up to be greater than the sum of their parts.  That was certainly the case with last Friday’s Meaford Summer Concert, the third in this year’s series.

It was an all-female show, a theme designed to support My Friend’s House, a crisis centre for women that serves Meaford and Collingwood.  It’s more fitting, though, to refer to it as an all-exceptional-talent show.  A half dozen acts followed closely on each other and built through the evening.  It had been moved indoors to the Gallery in Meaford Hall because of the rain.  About seventy chairs in the main room were filled and probably 30 more people stood in the adjoining room where the bar had been opened for the occasion.  That was an ideal setup, allowing them to talk and enjoy a drink while people in the main room were completely absorbed in the show.

It began with Sequoia Koop, a diminutive 8-year-old singer that Chris discovered at an open stage.  She was typically a little kid, looking down most of the time, wandering away occasionally from the microphone, and distracted at one point by an itch on her back.  But her delivery of the songs she did never faltered and were beautifully delivered with emotion, and dynamics, not once losing her pitch.    It’s always the sign of a great singer when you notice the song more than the performance, and her rendition of Allessia Cara’s “Beautiful” brought out the true meaning of the song.

Eden Young followed with a short set that compensated for the technical difficulties that marred her set at the first concert of the season, and this time her beautiful singing voice came through clearly.

Record Review: “Only The Moon” by Jenie Thai

“Only The Moon” by Jenie Thai reviewed by Bill Monahan

When a touring artist makes a debut CD they can go one of two ways:  they can try to reproduce as accurately as possible what they offer as a live performer so that when people buy the CD at a gig it will bring back memories of a good time; or they can, as Jenie Thai has done with “Only The Moon”, record music that can touch a listener in the privacy of their own headspace in a way that a performance in a noisy bar can’t accomplish.

Jenie Thai’s debut CD is emotional, moving and soulfully transcendent.  It might not be what you would expect from a performer who uses her keyboard chops and expressive voice to wake up a live audience and get them bopping to a selection of blues and R&B tunes, albeit done in her own signature style.

The tone is set with the first song, “The Lights Are Low”.  Like all the songs on the CD it is a beautifully engaging melody and has more than a hint of melancholy.  This CD is a testament to loneliness, and the effort to retain optimism through it.  She has a bewitching ability to create an evocative melody that sounds unlike anything else you’ve heard and creates the ideal setting for a voice that manages to soar without losing its inherent sadness.

To preview or download this album, click on the album cover

It’s always a mistake to assume that the emotions related in the songs of a singer-songwriter are autobiographical but it’s very tempting here, partially because of the consistency of emotions and partly because of the nature of the lyrics.  They are not glib.  At first they seem a little awkward, not always the meter or rhyme, or even metaphor that you might expect.  But with repeated hearings they seem ingenuous more than anything, the simple voice of a true heart.  But what a voice!  So vulnerable and innocent, it speaks to your own fears and doubts.